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Inside the Globus INK: a mechanical navigation computer for Soviet spaceflight

The positively steampunk piece of hardware used for tracking Alexei Leonov’s Apollo-Soyuz mission.

Network effect

Mastodon is not a platform. Mastodon is just a tiny part of a concept many have been dreaming about and working on for years. Social media started on the wrong foot. The idea for the read/write web has always been different. Our digital identities weren’t supposed to end up in something like Twitter or Facebook or Instagram.

Decentralisation, Federation, The Indie Web: There were many groups silently working on solving the broken architecture of our digital social networks and communication channels – long, long before the “web 3” dudes tried to reframe it as their genius new idea.

I’ve been a part of this for many years until I gave up hope. How would you compete against the VC money, the technical and economical benefits of centralised platforms? It was a fight between David and Gloiath. But now Mastodon could be the stone.

Pluralistic: Better failure for social media (19 Dec 2022) – Pluralistic: Daily links from Cory Doctorow

Mastodon has gotten two things right that no other social media giant has even seriously attempted:

  1. If you follow someone on Mastodon, you’ll see everything they post; and
  2. If you leave a Mastodon server, you can take both your followers and the people you follow with you.

The most common criticism of Mastodon is that you must rely on individual moderators who may be underresourced, incompetent on malicious. This is indeed a serious problem, but it isn’t the same serious problem that Twitter has. When Twitter is incompetent, malicious, or underresourced, your departure comes at a dear price.

On Mastodon, your choice is: tolerate bad moderation, or click two links and move somewhere else.

On Twitter, your choice is: tolerate moderation, or lose contact with all the people you care about and all the people who care about you.

Empty Pointers and Constellations of AI

AI becomes a stand-in term for whatever technologies and techniques are new, shiny, and just beyond the grasp of our understanding. We use it to gesture at a future we cannot fully comprehend or currently realise. As soon as we do, it will no longer be “AI.”

Mona Sans & Hubot Sans

Two new lovely open source variable fonts from Github.

Derek Powazek - A community isn’t a garden, it’s a bar.

The first thirty years of the web may have been an orgy of unregulated expansion, but that era is over. The EU has been a leader with the GDPR, but there’s more coming. And I’m glad. The big players have had plenty of time to get their shit together and they haven’t. It’s time to regulate them as much as we regulate a shot of bourbon.

A year of new avenues

All along, from the frothy 1990s to the per­co­lat­ing 2000s to the frozen 2010s to today, the web has been the sure thing. All along, it’s been grow­ing and maturing, sprout­ing new capabilities. From my van­tage point, that growth has seemed to accel­er­ate in the past five years; CSS, in par­tic­u­lar, has become incred­i­bly flex­i­ble and expressive. Maybe even a bit overstuffed — but I’ll take it.

For peo­ple who care about cre­at­ing worlds together, rather than get­ting rich, the web is the past and the web is the future. What luck, that this decentralized, per­mis­sion­less sys­tem claimed a posi­tion at the heart of the inter­net, and stuck there. It’s limited, of course; frustrating; some­times maddening. But that’s every cre­ative medium. That’s life.

Simon Collison | Farewell, Twitter

I’ve been feeling exactly what Colly articulates here:

I’m aware that smart friends still tweet passing thoughts without a care, and I can’t understand why. Some seem happy to repost damning articles about the situation and then carry on tweeting without a care.

Designing a Utopian layout grid: Working with fluid responsive values in a static design tool. | Utopia

James describes his process for designing fluid grid layouts, which very much involves working with the grain of the web but against the grain of our design tools:

In 2022 our design tools are still based around fixed-size artboards, while we’re trying to design products which scale gracefully to suit any screen.

jwz: PSA: Do Not Use Services That Hate The Internet

If you’re thinking of signing up to Hive or Post:

If posts in a social media app do not have URLs that can be linked to and viewed in an unauthenticated browser, or if there is no way to make a new post from a browser, then that program is not a part of the World Wide Web in any meaningful way.

Consign that app to oblivion.

ongoing by Tim Bray · Bye, Twitter

I don’t like making unpaid contributions to a for-profit publisher whose proprietor is an alt-right troll.

Same.

I can see no good arguments for redirecting my voice into anyone else’s for-profit venture-funded algorithm-driven engagement-maximizing wet dream.

An Interactive Guide to Flexbox in CSS

This is a superb explanation of flexbox—the interactive widgets sprinkled throughout are such a great aid to learning!

Octavia Butler’s Science Fiction Predicted the World We Live In - The New York Times

A profile of the life and work of the brilliant Octavia E. Butler.

The lost thread

The speed with which Twitter recedes in your mind will shock you. Like a demon from a folktale, the kind that only gains power when you invite it into your home, the platform melts like mist when that invitation is rescinded.

Bird’s-eye View · Paul Robert Lloyd

I love not feeling bound to any particular social network. This website, my website, is the one true home for all the stuff I’ve felt compelled to write down or point a camera at over the years. When a social network disappears, goes out of fashion or becomes inhospitable, I can happily move on with little anguish.

Mastodon is just blogs

Do you still miss Google Reader, almost a decade after it was shut down? It’s back!

A Mastodon server is a feed reader, shared by everyone who uses that server.

I really like Simon’s description of the fediverse:

A Mastodon server (often called an instance) is just a shared blog host. Kind of like putting your personal blog in a folder on a domain on shared hosting with some of your friends.

Want to go it alone? You can do that: run your own dedicated Mastodon instance on your own domain.

This is spot-on:

Mastodon is just blogs and Google Reader, skinned to look like Twitter.

Fediverse

Despite growing pains and potential problems, I think this could be one of the most interesting movements on the web in recent years. Let’s see where it goes.

I’m getting the same vibe as Bastian about Mastodon:

Suddenly there was this old Twitter vibe. Real conversations. Real people. Interesting content. A feeling of a warm welcoming group. No algorithm to mess around with our timelines. No troll army to destory every tiny bit of peace. Yes, Mastodon is rough around the edges. Many parts are not intuitive. But this roughness somehow added to the positive experience for me.

This could really work!

Suspension · Matthias Ott – User Experience Designer

But most importantly, always write your most important thoughts on your own site. You can share the link on as many platforms as you like and have conversations with anyone who wants to connect with you and your work. But nobody can take it from you. You are in control. Forever.

Thinking about leaving Twitter

This is how I feel when I open up my feed reader—it feels like the opposite of opening Twitter:

The web remains a sea of interconnected ideas, across a kaleidoscope of forms and sources. Spending most of my time on just a handful of billion dollar sites squanders the possibilities and runs contrary to my values. There’s so much to be said for diversifying inputs, but there are only so many hours. It makes sense to economize.

Building the new Utopia homepage | Trys Mudford

Trys has written up how he made that nifty little resizing widget on the Utopia homepage.